There will be a day when we will die bringing an end to our earthly life. Life is the most precious gift from above, it is of heavenly origin allowing the experience of God’s great Glory.
When we live a Christian life of the true Orthodox living faith, we come to understand that we first must die to ourselves, before the time of our earthly physical death; we must first die to our sins. Then at a time ordained by God, having been given every opportunity to know Him, we will suffer a physical death, the threat of our annihilation, which is the work of the devil, before we can realise and enter into the fullness of God’s Grace to eternal life.
Our earthly death is God’s blessing out of His great love for us. Death is perceived by many with great fear and trembling, the finality of all things known; but in truth it is the finality of what has no lasting purpose and what opposes true reality and that is God. What follows our death by the will of God is the retaining and preservation of what is good, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. What will be retained is what is good, found only with what has been united to its origin from above and that is God. This is when the Creator and the created become one, gifted by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, founded in faith, bound by love and humility, and by the petitions of the faithful calling on God’s great mercy and grace to become God-like, imitating Christ in every way.
God seeks to separate us from sin and its grasp, to free us once and for all from our spiritual darkness and the grasp of the devil. This then transports us to the knowledge and understanding that it is not possible for good and evil to co-exist in the world to come; we must choose one or the other.
In this world the theatre and drama of good and evil is played out. For a time, we become confused and immersed in both love and hate, in judgement and forgiveness, in happiness and sorrow. But this is only for now and cannot be for the world to come. It is a test to show who we are and what is in our heart and ultimately to progress toward what is good and that is God. For Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) And so, by faith it becomes known, that which is true cannot be shaken, that which is false cannot be retained. Therefore, forgive all, in order that you will also be forgiven for this is the way of the Lord.
By faith we are given the knowledge to come to terms mystically with the incomprehensible mystery of death and God’s great providence in separating us once and for all, from the forces of evil and the threat of our annihilation. In His great providence and in His great love for us we learn to know God and to trust in Him, our death then no longer is a threat, but a door leading to paradise.
After the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity lost God’s Grace; death and suffering ensued for all. It came about because we lost our communion with Him Who is the source of all life, the perfection of everything and the source of all existence.
If we learn to love God, with our patience He will show us that He is the breath of life; He is the very beat of our heart, He is Love itself. With God we will learn to know who we truly are, with Him we will know what path to take and what is to become of us, so that we are never lost, for He is Truth itself.
We live therefore with patience and hope, with love and with faith in God through the life of the Church which is found in her Sacraments. By the Church’s teachings we partake of the holy Mysteries – the Sacraments, that heal our soul and reconcile us with God.
In the life of the Church, the faithful are waiting, all of us as one, one body on life support, patiently anticipating the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – our true God. We the faithful are One Body with Him. This is the Church, He being the head of the Body and we its members anticipating the Resurrection of the dead to life everlasting.
(Ephesians 4:15 & Ephesians 5:23)
God’s promise to us is that He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will allow us to hear what no earthly ears have ever heard, nor earthly eyes have ever seen, nor what has been conceived in the heart and mind of anyone (1 Corinthians 2 vs.9); an unimaginable beauty which God has prepared for those who truly love Him.
We are by the Grace of God conceived in our mother’s womb.
Within the protection of our mother’s womb, the human person awaits earthly birth and by God’s great mercy after our earthly birth, we await entrance into another world entering the spiritual womb of the Baptismal font, so that by God’s love and mercy we are born again. (Christ to Pilate: “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)).
Leaving the former things behind, we anticipate a new heaven and a new earth. Where there will be no more mourning, nor sorrow nor death, for the former things will have passed away. (Rev.21 vs.4).
Our Baptism is a gift from God above allowing us to die to our sins, to our old selves, and to rid us of the curse that threatens our existence and threatens us with permanent death. As God is Life, our separation from Him is what we should fear above all else, because this will lead to the third death which is our permanent separation from God. Now even though we will suffer an earthly death, if we believe in Him, we will die with Him to then realise His victory of Life over death, found only in Christ by His Holy Resurrection.
Do we want to understand these things?
Then we must base our understanding on God’s Word and His Wisdom.
Do we choose not to base our understanding on God’s Word and Wisdom?
Then we will enter into a life of fantasy and delusion to replace the wisdom of God and His Truth to be confronted by the inconceivable pain caused by the third death where there will be the “gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30) – the realisation of the permanent separation of man’s soul from God.
Many do not know or realise that the suffering of this life has great purpose and a great reward if our mind is with Christ our God. By the struggles and difficulties we experience in the name of God, we learn to uphold the truth and His Word. For God’s will it is “that all people should come to the knowledge of the Truth and be saved,” (1 Timothy 2:4) without which we live our life in vain.
It may be said of those who reject and deny Christ:
You practised good thoughts and assumed knowledge to gain meaning in your life, but you did not do so with reference to God. You secured yourself and became self-assured even self-justified but you could not see all the while that you were on a path leading to oblivion.
You sought to be heard but you did not have the ears to hear. Your endeavours were fruitless, though well disguised behind the activities of your life as you immersed yourself in various interests having no remembrance of God and giving no thanks to Him. Your efforts served what you thought was necessary to establish meaning and purpose in your life, to please people but not God, thinking somehow God could not see both your intentions and your actions that were motivated by your self-centred life.
Your self-importance bound you and blinded you, so you dismissed the Wisdom of God and His great mercy.
You learned to lie, to cover your shame, so that your life became a lie.
You became absorbed with your own righteousness, so you pursued and persecuted the Christians, pronouncing rights and equal opportunities where ever you could, claiming the high ground, pursuing justice in the world but at the same time proving to be an abomination before God because of your hypocritical stance in not first seeking to heal your own soul.
You swayed from side to side to the tune of silly jingles setting your mind to notions of empty peace when you knew no peace, because you rejected God who is the author of all Peace.
You developed a character of self-opinion but all of it vacuous, seeking to fulfil the sense of your own purpose of existence, parading as someone of substance, but you had no faith in God who fills all things and is in all places.
You did not recognise your failings because you showed no interest in the knowledge of the Truth; you could not see or admit to any error – to your own faults, flaws and failings, so you could not address them that you might be reconciled with God.
The experiences of life have hardened you whereas your heart ought to have mellowed, that you might have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and learned a better way, to seek remorse and to seek God’s mercy and to save your soul.
Had you sought all of this you might have become like a child again, for in their innocence, we like them can become like children again in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
You lived a life of pretence and not repentance, mimicking what is good without a thought for Him who loved you before the foundation and the Creation of this world. “For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)
Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou